Exit the Dragon, Enter the Tiger Reviews
The plot is extremely strange and literally uses many elements of Bruce Lee's real death for story devices. The film opens with actor Bruce Li visiting Bruce Lee (also played by Bruce Li) on the set of making Enter the Dragon. Bruce Lee tells Li that he is his true successor and that he has been receiving strange phone calls. Lee than says, get this, "If I Die, find out why." Seriously I am not making this shit up! We are then given a collage of newspaper clippings of Lee's death and in the films most tacky move actually uses real footage of Lee's funeral. Li, appalled by the death of Lee, is bound determined to find out what really killed him and finds out that Bruce was being blackmailed by a drug lord to smuggle drugs. When Lee refused, he was murdered. I say again I am not making this shit up! Lee then single handedly takes on the drug cartel and fight after fight ensues.
Only in Hong Kong would such a disrespectful film get made but I can't help it.... I had a hell of a fun time with its tacky story. The plot is ridiculous and the dialogue is full of hilariously dubbed dialogue. Here is an example "There was a dragon. And here is a tiger. And we know that tigers don't travel alone. We're not afraid of the jungle." Bruce Li again impresses me with his martial arts ability and the film is filled with his talent. I do find it funny how Li is always lured away from urban areas into junk yards or abandoned factories for his major fights. The directing for the most part isn't that bad (compared to the dialogue) and director Tso Nam Lee gets some great shots, especially at the end of the film with a climatic fight on a shoreline with waves splashing over our hero and antagonist. I also enjoyed the urban, 70's environment (with a funky 70's score no less) as opposed to being a period piece like most other Bruceploitation flicks at the time.
Sadly Exit the Dragon, Enter the Tiger will never get respect as a good martial arts film mostly due to the fact the plot disrespects and insults the good name of Bruce Lee. Beyond that I had an great time with the solid fight sequences, bad dialogue, cheesy 70's villains and setting. Fans of martial arts B-movies should have a great time as long as they didn't know real Bruce Lee personally. This is Bruceploitation and its most shameless and most entertaining.
Bonus Rant: Like every other Bruceploitation film ever made, Exit the Dragon gets another poor DVD release. The picture ratio was all fucked up on the release I have from Trinity Home Entertainment. The film is letterboxed but everyone is stretched out in full screen mode and everyone is fat when I turned my TV to anamorphic widescreen. Thankfully my techwiz friend Bill comes to my rescue yet again and was able to fix it. It seems that the menu and the video file were both encoded to be 16:9 anamorphic widescreen, but the info bits on the DVD flagged them both as 4:3. Mistakes like this on DVDs just piss me off. Don't DVD companies have any quality control anymore?!
I have to say, this movie is freakin' awesome. It's a fictional take on the mystery of Bruce Lee's death that one of his students (played by Bruce Li), whom chosen by Bruce to be his successor ironically because he looks alike, is on a mission to find the truth behind it, leading onto a road of vengeance against an organization covering up the incident.
What makes 'Exit the Dragon, Enter the Tiger' so great is the soundtrack. The studio somehow manages to slip in extracts of music I can recognize from any other movie, despite the credits stating the music is 'composed' by someone. I can hear an extract of Pink Floyd's 'Shine on You Crazy Diamond' in a scene when Bruce Li is looking at posters of Bruce Lee at Bruce's home, in the opening credits two Isaac Hayes songs I recognize from Kill Bill are played which makes you feel prepared to watch some kickass action, and tracks from John Barry's score to Bond flick 'The Man with the Golden Gun' are added for some dramatic scenes. It may sound like a lazy chop-job, but actually those music pieces fit in nicely. It's like Quentin Tarantino went back in time and worked on soundtrack arrangement secretly.
Aside from music, the fighting choreography's not bad for a Bruceploitation movie. Cinematography looks surprisingly spectacular and the villains are actually quite adversary. It's as if they maintained the engaging formula used from Enter the Dragon (action, cinematography, music) that it almost feels like a sequel to that movie (ironic since the title references it).
If you ever have the chance to get a copy of 'Exit the Tiger, Enter the Dragon', pick it up immediately; it's totally worth buying.
What is really fascinating about Exit the Dragon, Enter the Tiger is it takes a postmodern notion of everything being up for grabs as fiction and stretches it to rarely reached lengths. A film in which a new film star investigates the death of an old film star, in which an actress plays an actress who was present at the old film star's death, which plays out in the style of the films of the old star's films - it's heady stuff.
The investigation into the death of Lee by his pupil and supposed successor Li is a pretty flimsy affair. We never get to find out why Bruce was killed, but Lee's real death provides a basis for a fictional plot about a drugs ring wishing to use martial arts stars as couriers. But it's a pacey enough film, with excellent widescreen cinematography (the framing is particularly impressive) and sharp editing, and if the plot is rather slight and the characterization rather one dimensional - well, we are dealing with a genre (the martial arts film) which is hardly known for its sophistication in those departments. Li doesn't have Lee's presence and charisma, but he's cute and is convincing enough at the centre of some tasty fight sequences.
All of the positive elements of the film come together at one moment in the final scene - Li is fighting the drugs kingpin The Baron, who unsheaves a sword-stick and lashes at our hero. Li's shirt is cut off, and bare chested with cuts across his body, he looks just the image of Bruce Lee in a famous scene from Enter the Dragon. The film has been building towards this moment, and all Li has to do is vanquish the villain to take the mantle of his forebear, which he does. No matter that Li didn't go on to nearly the same international success as Lee, and faded rather ignominiously from the screen by the early 80s, this film has done exactly what it intended to do - momentarily replace Lee with a plastic facsimile, air a bit of gossip about his death and make a small pile of money in the process.
It's no good expecting anything else of a film like this, and it's as honest about its intentions as can be - and given the low-brow nature of those intentions, a considerable amount of film-making skill and effort has been put into the picture - you have only to think for a moment the logistical difficulties filming the final seaside rocks at incoming tide sequence must have presented to realize that although the filmmakers are exploiters, they certainly weren't slackers.